Triple Take: One more step until Salem

The UW-Whitewater defense is ready to go. Who else?
Photo by Larry Radloff,

Three of the teams playing this weekend – Mount Union, Mary Hardin-Baylor and UW-Whitewater – are Division III’s consensus elite teams of the past decade, all having played in Salem for a national championship in that span. The fourth – North Central – is a fast-moving thrill ride that has every reason to be playing along next to those powers (and the Cardinals would be the only ones of the bunch who wouldn’t bring the purple-clad fanbase that Division III’s championship city has gotten so used to seeing).

Pat, Keith and Ryan again bring you predictions and commentary in this penultimate weekend of the season, and we welcome your score predictions in the comments section below. Or you can reach out to us on Twitter at, @D3Keith or @NewsTipps.

For more info on the 32-team race to Salem, including the brackets, info on each team and feature stories, check our playoffs home page.

Ryan’s take: I would have loved to have been listening in on the Mount Union locker room after last week’s narrow escape from Wesley’s rally – because being there might be the most telling piece of what kind of Purple Raiders team this is. I’m sure there was excitement, along with some relief. But is there now some doubt? Some shaken confidence? If there was, it will have been coach Vince Kehres’ task this week to firm up the mental foundation to get his team ready for the national semifinals. The matchups don’t get easier moving forward, no matter who advances. North Central is a total package team, from offense, defense, turnovers, red zone efforts. And they’ve surely proven capable each week of the postseason, being able to hang big numbers on big opposition. Mount Union is Mount Union, and, in the locker room after last week’s game, perhaps what they really thought was how much they relished the thrill of a successful hunt. North Central 38, Mount Union 27
Keith’s take: Truth be told, part of me is ready to see some new faces in Salem; North Central vs. UMHB would be different than the annual purple power Holiday party. On the other hand, the safe pick this time of year is always Mount Union. So, careful to make this pick about this year’s football teams, and not about my head or my heart, I set out to consume as much info as time would allow, including video of both quarterfinal wins. What I found were two teams with very smart quarterbacks, an array of playmakers, and opportunistic defenses. UMU and NCC are similar, yet very different from UW-W and UMHB, who are like one another. Some of the advantage each offense usually has will be negated by the fact that they run a lot of the same read-option based plays, bubble screens, etc. That means each defense has seen plenty of the looks it will see Saturday. I don’t get the sense that this North Central team will crumble under the weight of the moment, and Coach John Thorne is preaching the formula to win in Alliance: Limit turnovers and big plays (no easy scores) and make Mount Union work for their points. But the Purple Raiders also trot out the offense that put up 42 on a John Carroll defense that had allowed 33 in its first nine games, and exploded in last week’s 62-59 win. In all that I watched, the one thing I don’t see is how North Central is going to get pressure on UMU QB Kevin Burke. If they resort to exotic blitzes, he’ll see where they are coming from, and UMU will put up its points. Mount Union 41, North Central 31.
Pat’s take: All of the anecdotal evidence points at a struggle for the team coming in to play Mount Union for the first time. Those coming to see the Purple Raiders on their home turf for the first time in program history fare poorly. (Except UMHB. I see you, yes.) But it’s not the anecdotal evidence that leads me to pick the defending champs here. It’s the X’s and O’s. No, wait not that. The other one. I am not convinced that North Central has the the deep threats that Wesley did. Peter Sorenson is a big target but not Steve Kodossou. Is Chad O’Kane enough to do that? Probably not. Even with a better quarterback, just not sure how North Central is going to score quickly. Can they score points? Sure. But against an opponent that won’t allow much of a running game, not sure throwing underneath gets the job done. Mount Union 38, North Central 30.

Ryan’s take: Lining up against each other is the team I picked to win the Stagg Bowl in the preseason (UMHB) with a team that I wasn’t even sure would make the postseason (UWW). What makes this pair unique – and was already touched on by Keith in the ATN Podcast – is that neither team is being driven by an overwhelming superstar, the kind of which we’ve seen often from both squads in past years. Now, they both rely on team efforts to do what they do best: for the Cru, that’s put (lots of) points on the board; for Whitewater, it’s to stop just that sort of thing from happening. Because of that counterbalance, I love this matchup, and it truly is one that could go either way. I think two major things are going to come out of this game that will inevitably bring the two teams closer together: the Cru will be held to its lowest point total of the season, and UW-W will give up more points than it has to any one team this fall. Where those ends meet is where the game will get particularly thrilling. Mary Hardin-Baylor 28, UW-Whitewater 24
Keith’s take: The other game might be powered by offense, and star players under center, but this one matches the two best defenses left playing, with the most size and speed. Try in the early going to watch the battle along the line of scrimmage instead of following the ball; that’ll tell you more about which way the game is headed. Are the Cru defensive linemen too fast off the ball for UW-W, or is the Warhawks’ zone blocking using the Cru’s penchant for penetration against them and creating running lanes? UMHB has made its way by shutting down opposing running attacks (83 carries for 145 yards, 1.7 per carry, in the past two playoff games), but UW-W is a different level. Similarly, UW-W’s D has had its way with teams all season; Linfield got up big in the first half last week, but gained just over 90 yards in the second half while the Warhawks had seven of their eight sacks. Watch for the halftime adjustments from UW-W. Also, three UMHB players had a hand in TDs from the QB position last week (Marcus Wimby is technically listed as a WR), and while you can see why UMHB loves Zach Anderson — he has size, speed and an ability to improvise — watch to see if Brian Gallagher or Wimby get snaps. In the end, I expect a defense-controlled game to open up late. Mary Hardin-Baylor 27, UW-Whitewater 24.
Pat’s take: I said at the beginning of the playoffs that UMHB was going to be tough to beat at home. It’s hard for me to go against that now, even though I think UWW comes into Belton in a little better shape of the two teams. UMHB’s offense is a bit unsettled, without the dominant running back it’s had in the past or the stellar quarterback it had the past two years. And the defense might be missing Silvio Diaz Saturday, from what I’ve heard. Enough to make the entire difference? No. I still like UMHB enough at home. UW-Whitewater hasn’t allowed 21 points all year, but it hasn’t gone to Mary Hardin-Baylor yet either. Mary Hardin-Baylor 21, UW-Whitewater 20.

38 thoughts on “Triple Take: One more step until Salem

  1. UWW – 17
    MHB – 14

    This game could come down to the kicking game, and I believe UWW has a good one. I think both will need to make half-time adjustments, and that factor could completely change/alter the outcome.

    Mount – 35
    NCC – 28

    The only reason I don’t have this score higher for both is the weather consideration. I just think at home, in the semi’s, and with a defense that has much to prove after last week, Mount does “just enough” on defense to move on.

  2. As far as kicking goes, Chad Peevy is a stud. He can pin a team back inside the 20 or even 10 with our fast outside guys, and he hit a 47 yard FG in last weeks game. I think the Cru special teams is up for the challenge on that end.

  3. Seems every time MUC has the rare close game they are predicted to have a close game or even lose the following week. Instead they go out and dominate. Still, my head is leaning towards NC. They might even be the better team this year. However, they have never been “here” before and for Mount this is simply part of their annual journey.

    MUC 34
    NC 20

    Not as long of an explanation for this one. I believe the Cru is 0-3 against UWW? I think they will be 1-3 after Saturday.

    UMHB 28
    UWW 18

  4. You almost have to pick Mount at home. How will NC deal with the fact they are playing for a trip to the Stagg? Mount is young but they know what is expected of them each year . They expect to win, same as last year against UMHB .

    Mount. 48
    NC. 30

    UWW 27
    UMHB 24

  5. If NC doesn’t turn the ball over 5 times like Wesley did last week, they have an excellent chance to win. Wesley still almost won despite the 5 turnovers…and allowing a punt return for a td. NC just can’t be intimidated by the big stage and mounts history and they will be fine.

  6. I really hope NCC will beat UMU – just cuzz. And I think they can do that by controlling the tempo of the game. If NCC has to play catch-up, they are doomed. They have to keep UMU “in front of them” which is no easy task – but I really hope they can.

    Score NCC 28 UMU 24

    Defense wins championships and UWW has a real good one. Again, if this game turns into a foot race, the Warhawks will lose. The uncertainty of the QB situation at UMHB does not bode well.

    UWW 24 UMHB 17

  7. Mount 40 North Central 27

    UWW 24 Mary Hardin Baylor 23

    We saw what 3-6 inches of snow can do in the NFL. That is a big unknown other than the ball will be hard to handle. Each field and storm plays differently. THe great unknown is can the offense get any footing. The defense usually can’t. Advantage offense if they can cut. If they can’t, then my score comes way down and we are looking at a low scoring game in Alliance. If the offense has footing…yikes…we may see 62-59 again.

    I think fans are making too much of the 59…last TD set up an onsides. It is not a vintage Mt Union D for certain, but it was an 11 point game with 2 minutes left. Wesley was never in position to win.

  8. The weather will certainly be a factor. If NC is forced to line up and run the ball because it is that bad, or just bad enough to cover a little bit for the weakest link in Mount’s D, NC could be in trouble. Or, if they find a way to get decent yardage out of their ground game, they could be right where they want. That is, keeping the game lower-scoring by keeping their offense grinding, and Mount’s offense off the field.

    Their quarterback is better than Wesley’s, but I their receivers are not. They will have the advantage if the weather is bad in that they know where they want to go.

    There are yards and points to be had against this Mount secondary, but until you can score consistently against their D as well as stop their O, it is hard to pick against them.

    UMU – 34
    NC – 28

    As for the 2/3 match-up, just as much a toss-up (took long enough for us to get here) I think UWW’s D is too good at what they do. Any liabilities at all from UMHB’s offense will be exploited. That said, UMHB’s offense is just good enough to solve any issues they had before this game. I think whoever wins between UMHB’s D and UWW’s O will be the team that wins it (of course, the sides getting less notoriety).

    UMHB – 24
    UWW – 21

    I expect two really good games/fights tomorrow.

  9. UWW’s D is really good only allowing 27 points in the second half the whole season. They have only thrown 1 interception all season. They have been dominating the Stagg forever along with Mount. They are so comfortable at this level it’s ridiculous. They are coming to Texas bringing everything they have, but it is not gonna happen for them. UMHB is determined to bring one home from Salem and they are not gonna stop the pain train for anyone. This is going to be the first of many ships Texas will be taking from Mount and Water. Fresh stadium. Fresh start. The Cru is taking this ship. UWW will not be attending the Stagg this year. CRUnation!!!!!

    MU 35 NC 21

    UMHB 42 UWW 0


  10. Mount Union 28 North Central 24

    UWW 34 UMHB 14

    UWW defense proved last week how they can take over a game. Let’s hope UWW’s offense shows up too!

  11. We know that Mount Union is a solid team across the board, but in terms of the best unit on the field I am hard-pressed to choose anybody but the NCC offense.

    The quality of the NCC offense and the Mount Union defense will offset each other and it will come down to who is more prepared in the specialty units.

    My X-Factor for this week is NCC return man John Skokna. On the verge of breaking out all year, the first-year transfer will step into the spotlight and take back either a punt or kick early in the second half that will silence what should be a rowdy crowd on a crisp Saturday morning in Alliance to give the Cardinal a momentum swing from which they won’t look back.


  12. To sader;
    You may very well be right that UMHB wins the game. (I actually think they will win.) There is no way that UWW takes a 42 point loss. Try 28-21.

  13. The NCC/Mount game had enough question marks attached to it BEFORE the forecast of a snow storm. The true results is anyone’s guess. NCC’s defense has been more consistent. Whether they have the athletes to match Mount is a huge question as is how they will handle this stage and their first visit to Alliance. History is not on their side on the latter:

    Mount Union 31
    NCC 27

    UMHB has scored 3,7, and 14 points against UW-W in their three contests. And while those games were 5-8 years ago, there are commonalities that remain true. UMHB still has an option based offense (read option at this point) that does not provide true balance. This offense works great when you have superior athletes to the defense. When you don’t, it can be limiting. UMHB does not have the athletes they have had on past teams and this might be the best defense they have faced in the history of their program. UW-W does not turn the ball over and has dangerous weapons in the passing game. Scheme, athletes, and history all favor UW-W. Regardless of UMHB fans’ claims that UMHB is “determined” this year, their determination does not exceed UW-W’s determination to regain the respect they believe they have lost. No way, no how.

    UW-W 31
    UMHB 13

  14. theoull – You would think a team that made it to 19 straight semi-finals would get a little more respect. Union-21? If, someway, somehow, NC holds Mount Union to 21 points, they deserve to win, however, NC will be fortunate to not give that up in a quarter, let alone through 4. If Mount finds any rhythm, at all, holding them back will be an extremely tall task. Chances are better to either win a really low scoring game by keeping Mount’s offense off the field completely (good luck) or winning a shoot-out (much better odds here).

    Fortunately for just about everyone, this Mount team is not last year’s team. If this team gives up 5 turnovers and goes into the 4th quarter of a semifinal down 14, they will probably lose rather than win by double-digits. And if the scenario that was just described did not silence a Mount crowd, if Wesley Absolute Go For Broke Heroic Last Stand did not silence a Mount crowd, an early second-half runback is certainly not going to do it either. A last second runback or final blown coverage on a long play to win the game? Yes. A single big play? Not a chance.

    I think people are overplaying Wesley’s 59 the same way people overplayed Mount’s low-margin victory (only 14) against Washington and Jefferson. Do not forget that Mount still stuck 62 on Wesley and was never challenged by W&J.

  15. well, my brackett had Bethel in the stagg so I have to go with the team that smashed them. Further, since Wesley hung 50+ on Mount i see even a bigger number being put up by the Red Birds:

    North Central 149 Mt Union 28

    Mary Hardin Baylor beat the birds i always root for so Im counting on them to beag these birds as well

    MHB 45 UWW 31

    2013 ends with a new match up in the championship

    NCU vs MHB!!!

  16. Mount Union 38 North Central 24
    It may be a little lower due to the weather, but these are the games Mount thrives in with a trip to the Stagg Bowl on the line.

    Mary Hardin-Baylor 24 Whitewater 17
    Whitewater is 3-0 vs UMHB, but i think UMHB gets it done this time at home where they have been good.

  17. Enjoyed all the comments to the fullest. All comes down to who takes care of the football.

    MUC has a lot to prove and if NC studied the films and just happen to discover what Wesley discovered in their half time adjustments then they should win. As for UWW-W and UMHB it will be won in the trenches. If UMHB stays focused and takes care of the ball they will win.

    NC 28
    MUC 27

    UWW-W 21

  18. I still believe that North Central will win the game against UMU in a close game.

    I see the other game as a tossup.

    I would like to see North Central play UWW for the championship, ehich I believe will be a North Central win. It is interesting that the two teams have not played since North Central has played nearly everyone else in the WIAC in recent years.

  19. To jlawerence01,

    UWW has played NCC twice in the last 5 years winning both games. The fist match up was in the 2007 quarterfinals which UWW won 58-21, and the second also in the 2010 quarter finals 20-10. NCC should stick to playing the lesser of the WIAC teams.

  20. And you can actually see the field in Belton! Must be nice. Nice green pastures, if a bit windy. It will be through the week in Alliance.

  21. @middlerelief – it was a board decision to change from Mount Union College to the University of Mount Union about 2010. The supposed decision was to be a better descriptor of what the school offers (they had recently added Engineering and Nursing program). The alums (including my wife, explaining my bias) think they were full of it. They picked it because it was small and local.

  22. In the end a few of us had it and it is back to the normal Mt Union vs UWW Stagg Bowl. Lots of credit to North Central and UMHB for giving those teams fights to the very end. I doubt these 2 have ever played both coming in off a 1 point win to the Stagg.

    This was my finals pick and I may be one of the few that picked UWW to win it all over Mount. However, I’m not sure if my overall score will be high enough.

    Good job by all including the 3 fellas who do a great job with the site. It wasn’t like picking any of the final 4 teams to win was a bad pick. They all had a chance. If you told me Mt Union was going to allow 40 and 59..and in regulation…I would have figured they’d lose. Credit to them. They and UWW just reload. Everyone else is good, but it seems like it has to be a perfect storm to beat these teams.

    Lets not forget….while some of these up and comers are young….so are Mt Union and UWW…and they tend to be very deep. Mt Union’s young D will have almost everyone back and be much better next season. Count on that. That is just how stacked they are. UWW is the only team that seems to stand up to Mt and win more than once. I see it again this season. Better d for UWW. That showed up vs a very potent UMHB and saved them and I think it slows Mt Union just enough for them to slide by in another super close game.

  23. What could have been for UMHB and NC. What if NC would have went for 2 on the previous two scores? What if # 40 from UMHB would have caught the wide open td pass in the end zone that went through his hands?

    Totally dumbfounded! UMHB kicked a FG with 3:20 remaining with only 2 time outs left. Why did they not go for the TD on 4th down? Worst case UWW gets the ball on the 4 yard line against the wind and you have the time outs. Very surprised UMHB kicked the FG.

    That was a great game and the officials did a great job. The officials let them play and had total control of the game. I hope the Stagg bowl will have a good officiating crew like we had today.

    Hats off to UWW, now go win the Stagg!!

  24. Would have been nice to have had our star DE today (Diaz), but he got suspended for violating team rules. Although I disagree with the FG decision, I credit coach Fredenberg for sitting Diaz. Coach will never let a player think he is above the team, hope other players paid attention.

  25. The CRU has to get a QB that protects the ball and can make good decisions. Don’t think Anderson is the answer unless he learns to do those things. Threw a pick in the red zone yet again on a crucial play.

Leave a Reply